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Right Royal Romantic Reunions (a Valentine story that is complete fiction) ….

A Right Romantic Royal Reunion

St Valentine’s Day in Leicester was all wind, rain and freezing cold temperatures, but the weather had not deterred the many people who had come to the King Richard III Visitor Centre. They were eager to see the exhibition about the man who had died in battle at nearby Bosworth in 1485, was lost for over five hundred years, and then found again, to be buried in 2015 in Leicester’s cathedral.

Of all the many displays, people most wanted to see Richard’s accurately modelled head, which stood on a plinth in a glass cabinet, with a beam of light directed from above. Richard, so reviled by Shakespeare and the Tudors, was now known not to have been a monster at all, but a handsome young man, whom thousands believed was a strong, good ruler. His increasing number of supporters insisted that had he lived, he would have been a truly great king. But, when a tragic widower of only thirty-two, he had been betrayed, killed in battle, and his crown usurped.

The rain was coming down even harder when the centre closed for the night, after which the only lighting was to aid the CCTV cameras that covered virtually every nook and cranny. Strange things were to happen before the Feast of St Valentine ended at midnight, but for some unknown reason, some of the cameras closed down for half an hour before midnight.

If they had gone on working, the resultant recording would have been sensational evidence of the existence of ghosts. Surprisingly, it would also prove that if history had not treated King Richard well, it had not been entirely fair to his usurping Tudor successor either. Well, in one respect, at least. In others the usurper was justifiably criticised.

Where the two spectral figures came from was impossible to say. They simply appeared at the stroke of half-past eleven, at the very moment the cameras switched off. One second there was no one by the model of Richard, the next a tall young man and dainty young woman were there, both dressed in 15th-century clothes of particular richness and beauty.

The man was slender, with reddish hair that clung about his shoulders. He wasn’t handsome, but arresting, with a thin, sallow visage, high cheekbones, and hooded, rather chilly eyes that were emphasised by his arched eyebrows. He gave a withdrawn impression, secretive and unhappy.

He wore costly black velvet trimmed with rare brown fur, and the heavy gilt collar across his shoulders was thick with amethysts, rubies and pearls. The same precious jewels adorned the brooch on his soft black hat. Anyone who knew their history would immediately recognise the young King Henry VII, Lancastrian founder of the House of Tudor, and the very usurper who had stolen Richard’s crown. Supposedly, his usurpation had ended the civil strife we now call the Wars of the Roses.

Henry, who was cordially loathed by Richard’s army of modern-day supporters, had been very ill and in pain when he died in April 1509 at the age of fifty-two. Tonight, however, he was no more than thirty again, his constitution strong..

The woman at his side was small and dainty, with a pale, oval face, shaved forehead and fair hair that was completely hidden beneath a short hennin headdress draped behind with a white gauze veil. A diamond-shaped golden pendant, with a magnificent sapphire, rested prettily against her forehead, and she carried a fresh white rose, symbol of the House of York, to which she belonged. Fixed to the bodice of her golden gown was a costly brooch in the form of a white boar, and beneath it an enamelled red heart with the letter ‘R’ picked out in diamonds. The boar was the personal cognizance of her husband, King Richard III, and the red heart had been the last Valentine gift he had given to her.

Queen Anne Neville had fallen victim to consumption not long before her husband’s terrible betrayal at Bosworth in 1485. Their only child, the little Prince of Wales, had passed away before her, so Richard had been a lonely man, deep in grief, when he defended his crown, his realm and his life that dreadful August day. Anne had been only twenty-eight when she had to begin her next existence so prematurely, but now, on this St Valentine’s Night, she was twenty again, fresh and lovely.

That Anne and Henry were an unlikely pair to stand together was obvious enough, because they had never met in life, and if they had, they would have been bitter enemies. But here they were, strangers, obliged by the dictates and whims of the hereafter to come to this particular place on this particular night in an attempt to be reunited with their lost spouses. Their chance of success did not seem good, after all, five hundred years had passed and for some unknown reason, they were both still alone. Anne had some hopes of the coming minutes, but Henry was resigned to failure.

They were decidedly awkward in each other’s company. So much so, that Anne was waspish. “There are countless people I would prefer be with on St Valentine’s Night than you, Henry Tudor.”

“The feeling is mutual, madam. I consider myself to have drawn the short straw, not only having you to contend with, but your cursed husband as well. His is the very last face on earth I wish to see.”

“And his very nearly was the last face you saw,” Anne replied.

He ignored the jibe about his close call at Bosworth, where another yard or so would have seen Richard despatching him to oblivion. “Besides,” he continued, “you are actually immaterial, because it’s my tiresome wife I want a word with.”

“Poor woman.”

“What about me?” Henry clearly felt hard done by.

“You? You’re just a parsimonious misery.”

“That’s what everyone says, and you’re all wrong.” He looked at Richard again. “Plague take the fellow,” he muttered.

Anne smiled lovingly at her husband’s likeness, wishing it were the complete living man again. How she longed for that, especially on this, the most romantic of all nights. Instead, she had Henry Tudor to put up with.

Henry was still grumbling. “What chance did I stand against such a rival? I could never win hearts as he did. The plaguey fellow’s still winning them now, half a millennium later.”

“Well, you didn’t even try, did you? You were—and still are—a scowling, frost-faced, unsympathetic, totally unloveable so-and-so, padding around your palaces like a hound with toothache.”

“I did have toothache.”

“Even so, it was your choice to be all the rest, so how you can stand here now and complain, I really do not know.”

Henry glowered. One of his eyes had a cast, which gave him a most disconcerting appearance.

Anne couldn’t resist goading him. “The wrong man lost at Bosworth, Henry, and he lost it because of heinous treachery.”

He groaned. “Oh, don’t start all that again. I know the Yorkist bleat by heart. Why can’t you admit that if the situation had been reversed, your dear Richard would have done as I did.”

Her eyes flashed. “Except for the dishonourable crime of flinging you naked over a horse, your body mutilated and disgraced.”

“I regret that.”

She made a disparaging, disbelieving noise, and turned her back on him to go closer to Richard. Her hand passed effortlessly through the protective glass cabinet, to touch the model’s cold, unyielding cheek. “Oh, my darling, most beloved Richard. I’ve been waiting so long for you,” she murmured, forgetting Henry entirely as she caressed the face. “But now you have been found again and buried properly, I hope we can be reunited at last. Please, my love.”

Her fingers traced adoringly over the unresponsive features, and then moved to the brooch in the velvet hat. It was such an insultingly cheap, over-large thing, with fake stones. Richard would never have worn something that vulgar and big. He had too much style and taste. She flicked the pendant pearl at the bottom, remembering that other, more joyous St Valentine’s Day, when she had presented the original to him. He had embraced her and kissed her lips right there, in front of the crowded great hall at Middleham. Such festivities had taken place that evening of romance, happiness and contentment. Such lovemaking when the curtains of the bed were eventually drawn, and they were alone at last . . .

Henry watched her. “I fail to see why you couldn’t have been reunited before. You knew where he was.” It wasn’t said unpleasantly, just curiously.

She gave him a dark glance. “Because you hid him away, and buried him ignominiously in a grave totally unworthy of a King of England. He and I would have been reunited immediately if he’d been laid to rest publicly and with respect. Being concealed like that has kept his soul here, instead of being freed to enjoy his second life in the hereafter. With me. And our son, who waits as well. Richard was incarcerated underground for all those centuries, but when they found him again and made this likeness, he somehow became trapped inside it. No one really knows what happened, just that this is where he is now.”

She paused to blink tears away, and then turned another accusing glare upon Henry. “Yet I notice you gave yourself an ostentatious tomb of almost ridiculous splendour, and are able to enjoy your second life as you please. You really are a horrid person, Henry Tudor.”

“Thank you so much.” He sketched a mocking bow, but then held up his hands in surrender. “Oh, very well, mea culpa, a thousand times over, but it does not explain why I have not been reunited with Bess.”

“Ah.”

“What is ‘ah’ supposed to mean?” he demanded suspiciously. “You know something, don’t you?”

“Well, yes, actually. She’s avoiding you.”

He looked blank. “Avoiding me? I don’t believe you.”

“Please yourself. But it’s true. She had more than enough of your miserable ways in life. Now, every time she sees you looming on the horizon, she hides until you’ve gone again.”

“She . . . has no reason to feel that way,” Henry answered haltingly.

Anne was taken aback to see true hurt in his eyes. “Oh, think a little, sir! You kept such a tight hold upon your purse strings that she had to all but pay to breathe your air.”

His hurt intensified. “That is not so! Truly it is not. I pandered to her whims. I paid her gambling debts—which were HUGE!—and I let her have those unnecessarily expensive greyhounds. All one hundred of them! I always provided for her. And cherished her, which is more than she ever did me.”

“She says you were grudging and always lecturing her. According to her, you didn’t love her at all, and your . . . well, your attentions in the marital bed were cursory and efficient. Not in the least gentle and considerate.”

Henry’s lips had parted in dismay. “You seem intent upon believing her, but what she says is not true. Love, hate. So close, are they not?”

Anne was unsettled by his reaction, and as he walked away to a nearby exhibit, she leaned closer to Richard. “Do you think maybe Bess of York has been fibbing a little? Heaven forfend, of course.”

But Richard did not respond. He remained a cold, hard model on a plinth. Even his wig was the wrong colour, she thought. Far too straight and dark. His real hair had been a rich, deep chestnut, wavy, thick and heavy. Oh, how she had loved to run her fingers through it. Well, to be honest, she had loved to run her fingers over all of him. Every delicious inch.

His hair might not have been correctly depicted, but his face was. Well, except for the eyebrows, which were surely based upon the largest, furriest caterpillars in creation. Richard’s eyebrows had been smooth and cared for. Next she looked at the model’s blue eyes, but his eyes had been grey. She drew herself up sharply. No! His eyes were still grey, for he would come to her again. He was not going to stay in the past, or in this model. She wouldn’t allow it!

Words whispered to him in life now returned to her lips. “Oh, prithee Richard, your Anne would be your Valentine again.”

As she fingered her red heart brooch, a gift from him, she could almost hear his laughing reply as he pinned it there. “Your Valentine again? Sweetheart mine, you are always my Valentine, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month of every year.”

He had been a prince among men, and she had never been worthy of him. Fresh tears filled her eyes. “I failed you as a wife, my love,” she murmured, swallowing as a lump rose in her throat. “I gave you only one son, and it was not enough. Then we both left you on your own, surrounded by traitors and unworthy foes. Forgive me, for I still love you so very much.”

Henry was close enough to hear, and turned to her. “Speaking as one of those unworthy foes, I wish to point out that yours was a political alliance, as was mine.”

“No!”

“Yes.”

“You do not know anything about my marriage,” she declared.

“Hmm, yet you know all about mine, it would seem.”

She looked at him. “Perhaps I should not have spoken as I did.”

He inclined his head with that odd grace that was always his mark. “You judge me, but only have my wife’s testimony. I know your marriage to Richard was a calculated alliance on both your parts, for it’s as plain as the proverbial pikestaff. That you came to love each other deeply I do not doubt at all, indeed I am fully prepared to believe it. Yet you do not seem able to credit me with similar actions and feelings.”

Anne did not know what to say, because the man before her now was so very human that it did not seem possible he could be Henry Tudor.

He drew a long breath, leaned back against a display table, and folded his arms. “I married Bess because I had to, I admit it, but I soon loved her. She, however, remained cold, and refused to see my honest emotion. ‘Doing her duty’ was her creed, and she made no move to make the marriage more than a mere contract. She was Elizabeth Plantagenet, the White Rose of York, proud and disdainful, and never once wished her pristine petals to be joined with mine in the Tudor rose. It broke my heart when she died, but it would seem now that she departed gladly. Anything to get away from me. And so she breaks my heart again. Believe her if you wish—if you must—but at least remember that whatever it was she believes she endured at my hands, I endured it ten times over at hers.”

Anne could hear the pain in his voice, almost to the point of feeling it herself, and it affected her in a way she would never have expected. She felt sympathy—no, compassion! She, Anne Neville, was deeply affected by his private and very genuine distress.

Henry fished something from his purse. It was a beautifully embroidered silk badge . . . no, not a badge exactly, Anne thought, for it was heart-shaped. As she watched, he pinned it to his sleeve, and she saw it showed a likeness of Bess, with roses—white and Tudor—and the initials ‘E’ and ‘H’. He spoke quietly. “There, you see? I wear my heart on my sleeve.”

Then he moved away, pretending to examine other displays. Except for the silk heart, there was once again nothing to suggest he was anything other than the cool, calm, collected and controlled Henry Tudor to whom everyone was accustomed.

Anne glanced at Richard again. “I think we may wrong him in this particular respect, my love. Not in everything else, of course, but where love is concerned . . .” She didn’t finish.

The model did not move. There was no softening into living flesh, nor did its eyes meet hers or its lips part to speak. It was Richard, and yet it was not. She needed to be in his arms again, to feel his heart beat next to hers, and the warmth of his body in the secret night. His freedom to live his second life was everything to her now. As she, Henry and Bess already lived again, so he should too. It was so very lonely without him, and now, on the Feast of St Valentine, the sense of loss and echoing heartache was almost intolerable.

“Oh, why will you not come to me now?” she asked softly, not wanting Henry to hear again. “We have been apart for too many centuries. You have to come to me. If you do not, I will never forgive you!”

But nothing happened. There seemed no life within that beautiful image that tortured her with its close resemblance to the greatest love of her life. The only love of her life. Her heart was heavy as she drew a fingertip across his lips. “I cannot go on without you, Richard. Come to me. Please. Please!”

Henry spoke just behind her. “You and I have clearly done something wrong, my lady, for we are both to be refused the reunion we seek so earnestly.”

She gave such a start that he touched her hand apologetically. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. I thought you realized I’d returned.”

“No, I didn’t.” She struggled to compose herself again. “Forgive me, I was lost in thought.”

“I can understand. There he is, so near and yet so very, very far.”

She nodded. That was just how Richard was to her.

He spoke sadly. “More than anything, I want to say to Bess the words I never said to her in life, that I love her. She may not want to hear it, indeed, she clearly does not, but I need to say it.”

Anne’s lips wobbled, and she burst into tears, because his sorrow had become hers. Henry hesitated, and then pulled her to him in a gesture of kindness and comfort. He was careful not to crush the white rose she carried, knowing that such a catastrophe would not go down well. “What a sorry pair we are,” he said. “Both of us needing our proud Plantagenet spouse, and both denied the solace we desire so very much.”

Her tears increased. She was overwhelmed that such complete understanding should be shared with Richard’s ultimate foe. At this moment, Henry Tudor offered the support that was suddenly essential to her.

He smiled a little. “How cruel fate can be. We have been sent here on this, of all days, and yet it seems that no matter what, we will be refused the easing of our hearts.”

“Maybe not this time. Maybe tonight we will find them again.” Sniffing, she stepped back to search in her purse for a kerchief that proved elusive.

He pressed his own into her hand, and winced a little as she blew her nose into it noisily. The finest, rarest, most heavenly silk—so costly!—and she— Well, no matter. What did anything really matter now?

Anne looked up at him gratefully. “I could almost like you.”

“I might say the same of you, my lady. Richard was a fortunate man. Well, in his marriage, at least.” Henry cleared his throat awkwardly, because for him to name Richard III as fortunate was surely inappropriate in the extreme.

Anne summoned a little smile. “I never thought I would say this, Henry Tudor, but I hope you find Bess and are able to tell her you love her. I really do wish it. If I see her, I will tell her she must be kind to you.”

He smiled again and kissed her hand. “Thank you, Lady Anne, and let me wish you success in regaining Richard.”

There was a soft sound from the cabinet, and Anne noticed to her astonishment that Richard’s hat brooch had fallen on to the plinth. “How . . . odd,” she said.

“Well, you were toying with it,” Henry pointed out sensibly.

He was right. She must have dislodged it.

Henry drew a long breath. “In our different ways, and after all this time, we deserve some happiness, don’t you think?”

“Yes. Henry, I—” She broke off as his gaze suddenly darted past her, towards one of the few shadowy corners where the lighting did not penetrate. “What is it?” she asked nervously, shrinking close to him again.

“There’s someone there,” he said softly. “It . . . it looks like—” His breath caught as a figure moved into the light. A beautiful woman, perhaps a little embonpoint, but unmistakably his beloved Bess of York.

She came closer, the rustle of her kingfisher silk gown audible in the silence. She too was young and lovely again, her red-gold hair cascading to her waist, and her eyes very blue. “Henry?” she said softly.

He gazed at her, unable to speak or move. Five hundred years was a long, long time.

“Oh, Henry, please forgive me,” Bess breathed.

Now his were the eyes that brimmed with tears.

She held out her hands. “Forgive me for never understanding. Come to me now. I will never spurn you again or do anything to hurt you. I love you too, you silly Welsh pudding, but you never once said the right thing at the right time.”

He hesitated. “And the right thing to say now is . . . ?”

“You know what it is.”

“I love you, Bess of York. I love you completely and always have.”

His queen extended her arms, and Anne gave him a gentle push. She watched as they clung together in an embrace that was centuries overdue, but then they began to fade from view. First she could see through them, and at the very moment their lips met, they disappeared completely.

The Visitor Centre seemed suddenly very empty. Or was it? Anne could hear her own heart beating, but was another beating too? One that she could sense, but not quite hear? She did not dare to turn towards the display cabinet again, for fear that he would be the same as before, a mere model, with the wrong eyes and hair, awful eyebrows and no life at all.

“Oh, Anne,” his voice said softly, “do you have so little hope of me?”

Her eyes closed. Please do not let her be imagining it.

“Anne?”

“I . . . am afraid to turn, Richard, because I fear you will not really be here.”

“Did Henry just imagine his Bess?”

“No, for I saw and heard them both.”

“You hear me, sweetheart, so turn . . . and see me too.”

“I cannot,” she whispered.

“Do you remember how we exchanged red hearts that St Valentine Day in York? I pinned one to your gown, and you wear it still. But do you recall what happened to the other?”

“I . . . yes, I fixed it to your hat.”

“Where it is now. Turn, sweetheart.”

Slowly, shakily, she did as he asked, and at first experienced sharp dismay that the model was still in the cabinet, seeming unchanged. But then a movement nearby caught her full attention. There he was, the complete man, her perfect, imperfect Richard! Slender and almost fragile, smiling, his wonderful grey eyes alight with all that he felt for her.

His lean, fine-boned face was as matchless as ever, and his hair was dark chestnut again, falling in those sensuous waves that always invited her playful, adoring fingers. She could only stare, still fearing he was imagined; that he was her intense love conjured into light, but lacking substance. Yet the red heart was pinned to his hat.

He gazed at her. “My dearest love, I have so yearned for this moment.”

She remained uncertain. “But, why . . . after all this time?” she whispered. “Is it that you have now had an honourable interment?”

“No, sweetheart, it is because you and Henry wished each other well and meant it in your hearts. That is all. You were sent tonight to understand and like each other. It was the hereafter’s chosen way to free me and open Bess’s eyes. All four of us, brought together forever on St Valentine’s Night.”

“Forever? You really will be allowed your second life now?” she ventured timidly.

“Forever, my beloved. Unless . . . maybe you don’t want me after all?” He was teasing, but she did not realise.

“Not want you? I will always want you! Everything that you are! Everything!” she cried.

Then she saw his loving smile, and something seemed to burst with joy inside her. She flung herself into his arms so fiercely that she almost knocked him over. His embrace enclosed her tightly, and she raised her lips to be kissed. Oh, such a kiss, so longed for and imagined countless times, so dreamed about and yearned for through centuries. And now, so well worth the waiting.

Her body felt as if it were melting, becoming one with his, and love keened wildly through them both. She was suddenly so ridiculously, foolishly, exhilaratingly alive again that those empty centuries might never have been. King Richard III and his queen were reunited, and eternity now stretched gloriously before them.

Midnight began to strike, and she realized they were beginning to fade as Henry and Bess had before them. For a moment her thoughts turned to that other king, and the warmth with which he had comforted her. She sent a thought to find its way to him. ”Thank you, Henry Tudor.”

His happy reply winged back. “No, thank you, Lady Anne.”

The following morning, when the CCTV cameras were checked, as they were every day, it was discovered that those in the vicinity of Richard’s likeness had ceased to operate half an hour before midnight, but then resumed as normal immediately after the last stroke of the hour. It was also found that the king’s hat adornment had somehow fallen.

A middle-aged female assistant unlocked the cabinet to restore the brooch to its proper place on the hat, pinning it with the same great care she knew she’d shown before. “That’s odd,” she murmured to the colleague with her.

“You can’t have put it on properly the first time,” the young blonde friend at her side responded, and then laughed. “Or perhaps there was an earthquake.”

“The alarms would have gone off,” the first woman pointed out practically.

The other rolled her eyes. “It was a joke. I know Leicester isn’t the earthquake capital of the world,” she replied.

“Oh. Anyway, I’m not talking about the brooch having fallen, more that I feel sure there’s something different about him this morning.”

The other pursed her lips and tilted her head to study the model. “What do you mean? He looks the same as always to me. Must have been a tasty man in life, eh?” She laughed.

“What I mean is that he no longer seems to be inside.”

“Don’t be daft. He never was, poor chap.”

“No, I suppose not.”

The friend glanced at her watch. “I’m late! See you later.”

“Yes. Bye for now.” The first woman continued to look at the model’s handsome but inscrutable face. “You have gone, haven’t you, Richard?” she whispered. “Oh, I’ll miss you so much.” With a sigh, she adjusted the hat fondly, and then locked the cabinet again.

JAMES 1st – A ROYAL GOOSEBERRY

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Entrance to the tomb of Henry Vll as seen on the opening of the vault in 1869.  Drawing by George Scarf.  

How did James I come to be interred in Henry Vll’s vault?  Unfortunately it’s not known,  but we do know how it was discovered to be the case.  In 1868, Dean Stanley’s attention was drawn to conflicting reports of  the whereabouts of James’ and his Queen, Anne of Denmark’s vault.    Recognising the importance of ‘the knowledge of the exact spots where the illustrious dead repose’ (1) Dean Stanley resolved to get to the bottom of it.

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Dean Stanley

Although it had been noted  by one brief line in the Abbey’s register that James had been buried in Henry’s vault, ‘This was not enough for  Dean Stanley.  He loved exploring and he pursuaded himself that he must first eliminate all other possible places by opening up each of the Royal vaults in turn’ (2).  Vault after vault was opened, some were empty, some crammed full.  The coffins were discovered of a multitude of royal and noble personages including Mary, Queen of Scots (Dean Stanley thought James might have been interred with his mother),  Mary Tudor and her sister Elizabeth, the latter ‘s coffin on top of the other, Edward Vl, the numerous children of James II and of Queen Anne, and many others too numerous to mention here.  The vault of Anne of Denmark was also found, her coffin standing alone besides the empty space where James, her husband, should have been.  Where was he?

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James lst painted by Daniel Mytens

Laurence Tanner, Keeper of the Muniments and Librarian,  Westminster Abbey,  wrote ‘Night after night the Dean with a few of the Abbey staff was able to carry out his self-imposed task undisturbed.  On one occasion the historian Froude was present.  Speaking of it afterward he said ‘it was the weirdest scene – the flaming torches, the banners waving from the draught of air, and the Dean’s keen, eager face seen in profile had the very strangest effect.  He asked me to return with him the next night, but my nerves had had enough of it’.  (3)

At last, with nowhere else left to look, the actual vault of Henry was opened and to the Dean’s surprise, if not perhaps to that of others, James was found!  It was discovered on examination of the lead coffins therein , that Elizabeth’s had been slightly damaged at the top, possibly when it was removed to allow James’ in and then she was replaced, being rather squashed into the space between the two kings.  Its easy to imagine Henry spinning in his  coffin, as, after the enormous expense of his funeral, he and his Queen are now sharing their tomb with a gooseberry, albeit a royal one.  And here they are…

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  1. Dean Stanley, Westminster Abbey, p.651
  2. Laurence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p.177
  3. Laurence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p.177

 

 

YORK OR LANCASTER: WHO WAS THE RIGHTFUL KING OF ENGLAND?

Part 2 – For a kingdom any oath may be broken – York’s title 1460

 

Introduction

This is an essay about the legitimacy of the duke of York’s title to the English crown. I am not going to delve into the duke’s motive for claiming the crown, or into the details of the rebellion that led to his claim. I have covered both these issues in previous posts on this site[1].

Who was the true king of England: the Lancastrian Henry VI or his cousin Richard duke of York? That was the question uppermost in the minds of the lords spiritual and temporal in parliament in the autumn of 1460.[2] They were debating this question because: “…In October the duke of York came over from Ireland to Westminster at the beginning of parliament and as soon as he had entered the upper chamber of the royal palace, where the lords spiritual and temporal were sitting, he approached the royal throne and claimed the seat as his own; he put forward an account of his descent from Lionel duke of Clarence, to whose successors, he said, the kingdom of England belonged, since he was the elder, rather than to the descendants of John duke of Lancaster, the younger brother from whom king Henry was descended.[3] It was a claim as dramatic as it was unexpected and parliament was fully occupied for three weeks discussing the duke’s lineage and his rights.

The outcome of their discussion was so disconcerting to the anonymous author of

‘A Short Latin Chronicle’ that he lapsed into English when writing about it: ”Wherefore the king understanding the said title of the said duke [to be] just, lawful, and true and sufficient by the advice and assent of his Lords spiritual and temporal and the commons in the parliament and by the authority of the same parliament, approves, ratifies, confirms and accepts the said title (as) just, good, lawful and thereunto gives his assent and agreement of his free will and liberty. And moreover it is said by advice and authority, declared, called, established, affirmed, and reputed that the said Richard duke of York (is) very true and rightful heir to the crown of England and France.”[4] Everything is in the duke’s favour except the outcome. His title to the throne is thrice lawful; the Lancastrians are thrice usurpers. Nonetheless, York is not to be crowned until after Henry is dead. It was a recipe for disaster.

York was ten years older than Henry and statistically, at least, unlikely to outlive him. More importantly, the queen and her disinherited son were still at large with an armed force, embittered and well able to oppose this Act of Accord. Not for the first time, nor for the last, an English parliament had managed to make a bad situation worse. The only royal settlement likely to subsist now was one settled on a battlefield. Moreover, the Act of Accord presents a constitutional conundrum. If parliament judged York’s title to be unbeatable, why did they not give effect to their judgment? And, if York believed in the truth and justice of his title, why did he agree to bend his knee to the usurping Henry? The answers to these questions lie in the politics of the day.

York’s Petition

York submitted his written claim on the 16 October 1460[5]. It had the virtue of simplicity, being based solely on his hereditary right of succession. The only evidence adduced was York’s lineage. The main thrust of his case was that in 1399, when king Richard II was deposed, Henry of Lancaster seized the throne, which more properly belonged to Edmund Mortimer earl of March who was descended (through his grandmother Philippa) from Lionel duke of Clarence the third son of king Edward III; whereas, Henry of Lancaster was descended from John duke of Lancaster the king’s fourth son.

The Lords’ objections

The king, who was consulted next day, requested the lords to state objections to Yorks claim.[6] The lords prevaricated. They asked the king’s justices for advice. The justices declined to give it on the grounds that the succession was above the common law, and beyond their jurisdiction and competence. The sergeants-at-law also refused to give their counsel; they argued that if the succession was too weighty for the king’s justices, it was surely above the sergeants’ learning and authority. It seems that only those of the blood royal, and the lords spiritual and temporal were qualified to solve this problem. Freedom of speech was allowed and each lord was to put forward whatever he could to strengthen the king’s title and to defeat York’s. Eventually, five objections were raised:

  • First, the lords were bound to remember the great oaths of fealty that they had sworn to the king. These oaths argued against York’s claim since they could not be broken.
  • Second, the great and noble acts of parliament (unspecified) made in various earlier parliaments could be used against York’s title. Being statutes, these acts carried far more authority than any chronicle and defeated any claim made by any person.
  • Third, similarly, the various entails (again unspecified) made by the heirs male with regard to the crown of England argued against Yorks title, as may appear in various chronicles and parliaments
  • Fourth, York did not bear the arms of Lionel duke of Clarence; and
  • Fifth, Henry succeeded to the throne as the heir of king Henry III, and not as a conqueror

 

York’s response to the objections

The matter of oaths was important, which is why it was the first objection. Although it did not go directly to the merit of York’s title, it was a considerable barrier to the success of his claim. The lords were concerned about two things. First, their own oaths of allegiance to Henry as king “by succession, borne to reign” and to his son Prince Edward, which they had sworn less than twelve months previously at Coventry. Second, they were reminding York of his own oaths of allegiance and obedience, and many protestations of loyalty made to the king over the last decade. The breaking of these oaths was not merely a religious impropriety; it was sinfulness, the breaking of God’s law. To be forsworn was to court eternal damnation.

York responded in kind. He acknowledged every man’s duty to uphold God’s law and Commandments. However, he distinguished between oaths that preserve truth and justice and oaths that promote untruth and injustice. The first kind is obedient to Gods law, which prefers truth and justice; whereas, the second kind is contrary to God’s law. Moreover, since no man can absolve himself from obedience to God’s law to uphold truth and justice and since the oaths referred to by the lords are of the second kind, they are void and of no effect. An oath of allegiance does not bind a man to do anything unfitting or unlawful.

Despite the spiritual views expressed by both sides, Yorks final sentence contained an unmistakable temporal message for the king and his lords. It was a principle York had expressed in an open letter to the king just before first St Albans (1455). Whilst emphasizing, yet again, that he and his followers are the king’s true liegemen ready to live and die in his service he added “…to do all things as shall like your majesty to command us, if it be to the worship of the crown and the welfare of your noble realm (my emphasis).” York was putting conditions on his loyalty and obedience. He was making an important distinction between the institution of ‘the crown’ and the person of the king, and between them both and the rights of the realm. The implication is that although ‘royal authority’ is vested personally in the king, he must behave in accordance with the accepted norms of English monarchs as expressed in the coronation oath that binds them all. York is also introducing the concept of the ‘realm’ of England as a political entity distinct from the monarchy. It has its own rights to which the crown is ultimately responsible. This was more than just a device to protect him from accusations of treason or ‘oath-breaking’; it represents a fundamental tenet of England’s constitution, which we see put most forcibly in Magna Carta.

The second and third objections raise a significant constitutional issue. The key question is whether the Act of 1406, which gave statutory recognition to Henry IV’s title, was the final authority on the issue of succession. The lords obviously thought so, since they argued that it was of an “ authority to defeat any kind of title made to any person”. Having pointed out correctly that the only statute or entail made by any parliament in the past was the Act of 1406, York based his case on two mutually supporting grounds. First, if Henry IV’s title were valid as claimed, he would neither have needed nor wanted statutory recognition of it. Second, his own title being true according to God’s law and natural law was imperishable, even though it had not been asserted earlier. Henry’s title, however, was pretense and in passing the statute, parliament had recognized a title that Henry was not entitled to. The Inheritance Act of 1406 was, therefore, ultra vires. From a constitutional perspective, this was an important development; the theory of a parliamentary title was being subordinated to a theory that God’s law of inheritance determined the succession. York was not impugning the authority of statutes generally; he was simply saying that even though a statute (or an entail) might be binding in normal circumstances, it could not stand against his divine right of inheritance[7].

On the fourth objection that York did not wear the livery of his ancestor Lionel, his answer was predictable. The fact that he didn’t wear that livery did not mean he was not entitled to. He did not wear it for the same reason he had forborn from claiming the crown earlier, and which reason was well known.

The last objection was that Henry took the throne as the rightful heir to Henry III and not as conqueror[8]. York rejected this objection outright. It is simply not true, he said, that Henry IV was the lawful heir to Henry III “…and the opposite, which is the truth shall be readily enough shown, proved and justified by adequate authority and as a matter of record”. He added that Henry’s words were fraudulent and meant to disguise his “…violent and unlawful usurpation” from the people.

The Act of Accord

The Official account of the lords’ “sad and ripe communicacion in this matere[9] is brief but illuminating. The tension at Westminster is palpable. Under pressure from York to bring the matter to a rapid conclusion, the Chancellor seems on the verge of panic. He is desperate for a result that will reconcile York’s ‘unbeatable’ title with the lords corporate obligation to protect the common weal of the realm, their personal duty to king Henry and their consciences. The Chancellor proposed that Henry should retain the crown during his lifetime and when he dies, York should succeed him. It is, the Chancellor suggests, a resolution that avoids the trouble that might ensue, saves the king’s honour, preserves his dignity and estate, and may appease the duke of York — if he agrees! It also means the lords will not have broken the oaths they swore to the king at Coventry. The Chancellors plaintive call for anybody with a better idea to come forward is testament to his despair; as also, is his plea that the lords should stand by him when he explains the situation to the king. For want of something better, the lords readily agree to this outcome.

In truth, there was no appetite to depose a crowned and anointed king who had reigned for thirty-eight years, no matter how grave were his faults[10]. Although the lords sympathized with York’s predicament, they regarded his claim as inopportune. Notwithstanding the legality of his title, he was unable to overcome fifteenth century realpolitik. It was further confirmation that the succession was a political and not a legal process. For the lords the overriding consideration was to preserve the peace of the realm. It is a consideration that ordinarily would protect them from accusations of inconsistency and bad faith; however, in reality they were simply evading the issue and not solving the problem. Only the complete destruction of the Queen’s party or the Yorkists had any hope of procuring an effective peace. Furthermore, the disinheritance of the Prince of Wales guaranteed the continuance of war.

The historical opinion of York’s behaviour is unforgiving. At the time, the Lancastrians depicted him as a hypocrite whose claim to the crown was based on personal ambition and not on the common interest. Many modern historians endorse that view and it is easy to understand why. He swore at least two oaths of allegiance to the king and one of allegiance and obedience, and he made numerous declarations of his loyalty; yet in the end, he tried to depose Henry. York’s integrity can only be defended by examining his motives, which is outside my scope. Therefore, I will not comment on these accusations save to add a health warning. Most, if not all, of this opinion is derived from Lancastrian propaganda. The Yorkist counter-claims are clearly set out in the many political manifestos they produced during the 1450’s. These contained Yorkist propaganda for sure, but a balanced view of what was happening is only possible by considering both sides of the argument.

That said, I do believe that York’s action in accepting the Act of Accord, and his motive for so doing have been misconstrued by some historians. Parliament, it seems, is absolved from acting inconsistently or in bad faith because they moved to preserve the peace; whereas York is denounced for doing the same thing.[11] It is a strange judgment that simultaneously acquits the lords and convicts York for keeping the peace.

He had “taken the moral high ground and promptly compromised” writes John Watts, adding that “under the terms of his own argument, Duke Richard could not bind himself to the deferment of his right during Henry’s lifetime: any oath to do so would be contrary to God’s law and hence null and void.” The professor adds with a flourish “what true king would agree to be subject to a usurper?[12] The notion that York was prevented from accepting the Act of Accord since, on his own argument, it was untruthful and contrary to God’s law, is a shallow one. It ignores the reality of York’s situation and does his argument on the matter of oaths a disservice. The succession cannot be considered in the vacuum of religious doctrine, moral rectitude or personal right. It is, I repeat, a political process, not a legal or religious one. From York’s perspective, this action had been forced on him by constitutional system that made it impossible for him to protest against the excesses of a corrupt and incompetent Lancastrian regime and the breakdown in law and order, without committing treason. York’s cause of action had never been against the king, but against those household servant and royal favourites who abrogated royal authority.

For ten years York championed the cause of good governance in the common interest but he had achieved nothing, other than a reputation as an incorrigible rebel. This was the opportunity to put both the will and the means for good governance in one person. There is no discord between his argument on oaths and his acceptance of a compromise. Whilst the Act of Accord fell short of his objective, it commanded the most support and was self evidently in the common interest. It would indeed have been contrary to God’s law for York to insist on the strict letter of his right at this time and against the wishes of the English lords. He realized he lacked the broad spectrum of support necessary to depose Henry. The change from being the king’s true liegeman to wanting to replace him was too much too soon even for many of York’s supporters. The fact that this desire for a peaceful outcome was futile is neither here nor there from York’s perspective. Since he could do nothing to guarantee the pacification of Lancastrian dissidence, he could at least ensure his own good intentions.

Ultimately, York’s challenge ended in failure. A successful strategy depended on speed and surprise ‘…a speedy coronation; the swift removal of Henry…’[13] Once York was forced to claim the throne rather than seize it, his enemies had time to concert their opposition to him. However, by establishing the superiority of his title over the Lancastrians, York paved the way for his son Edward to seize the throne in 1461.

[1] See Richard 3rd duke of York (2) ‘The king’s true liegeman’ – 10 February 2015; and (3) ‘The man who would be king’ 8 March 2015 https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/

[2] Chris Given-Wilson (Ed) – The Parliamentary Rolls of Medieval England (Boydell Press 2005): Anne Curry and Rosemary Horrox (Eds) Volume 12 pp. 509-510 (introduction) and 516 to 521 (PROME). York claimed the throne on the 10 October 1460. His written petition to parliament was read aloud on the 16 October 1460. It was the petition that the Lords spiritual and temporal were considering.

[3] Nicholas Cox and John Cox – The Crowland Chronicle Continuations (Richard III and Yorkist History Trust 1986) p111.

[4] James Gairdner- Three Fifteenth Century Chronicles (The Camden Society 1880) pp.170-71; the full title of the ‘Latin chronicle’ is ‘Compilatio de gestus Britonum et Anglorum’ (MS Arundel 5 College of Arms).

[5] PROME Vol 12, ibid: see also Margaret Lucille Kekewich et al (eds.) – The Politics of Fifteenth Century England: John Vale’s Book (Allan Sutton Publishing 1995) p 195 (ff.130v–134/111v–115. The title and claim of the crown by Richard duke of York in the 39th year of king Henry VI))

[6] PROME Vol 12, ibid; the lords spiritual and temporal were commanded to find “…the strongest objections to defend the king’s right and title and to defeat the title and claim of the said duke of York.”

[7] SB Chrimes – English Constitutional Ideas in the 15th Century (Cambridge 1936) pp.27-30. This paragraph is based on Professor Chrimes’ lucid and succinct explanation, which has stood the test of time.

[8] The lords were wrong; Henry also claimed the throne as conqueror.

[9] PROME Vol 12; ibid

[10] Unlike, the deposition of Edward II, and the deposition of Richard II, there was no case against Henry VI of willful incompetence or tyranny. In fact he seems to have been a good, almost saintly, man personally. A regency government could have adequately managed during his periodic spells of mental infirmity.

[11] PROME, Vol 12 p 524. It is quite clear from the Parliamentary Roll that York accepted the compromise to preserve the peace.

[12] John Watts – Polemic and Politics in the 1450’s; Margaret Lucille Kekewich et al (Eds) – The Politics of Fifteenth Century England: John Vale’s Book (Allan Sutton Publishing 1995) at page 34; see also P A Johnson – Duke Richard of York 1411-1460 (Oxford1991 corrected edition) pp. 212-219.

[13] Watts at p35.

No more chocolate-box boys in the Tower, PLEASE….!

 

And to cap it all, we even have Kittens in the Tower!

Kittens in the Tower

Oh, for heaven’s sake!

Right, there is a famous “story” about one of our 15th-century princes of Wales, specifically Edward of Lancaster (or Westminster), seven-year-old son and heir of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. The fame goes that after the 2nd Battle of St Albans, which his side won, his mother asked him to decide the fate of two opposition knights who had been found guarding his father, the captive, rather weak-minded Henry VI. Little Edward chose to have their heads lopped off, even though his father protested. The prince was to eventually come off worst at the Battle of Tewkesbury, at the age of eighteen. (There are various versions of how he died, and at whose hand.)

Royal boys had armour in those days, and there are examples in the White Tower. Was Edward wearing something like this at the time of his supposed seven-year-old bloodthirstiness?

Well, of course, no one knows if the story is true. If it is, the adjective “bloodthirsty” is well earned where Edward of Lancaster is concerned. If it’s untrue, well, he is exonerated. But, given all the ferocious training young aristocratic and royal boys had to go through from the age of seven, he would certainly have already been faced with the brutal reality of medieval warfare. They all were. They learned to handle weapons that could kill, and were shown exactly how to put an end to an opponent. Some idea of this can be seen at http://www.lordsandladies.org/knighthood-training.htm and the following illustrations show more.

quintain - 3stages of knighthood

be master of all this

Imagine our little boys being confronted with such an armoury, and told they will be expected to be master of it all before they’re even men. Imagine them even being sent away to strangers to start learning how to shed blood. Unthinkable.

Like Edward of Lancaster, Richard of Gloucester (the future Richard III) is another example of this same rigorous knightly tuition from the age of seven, and learned every battle skill he might ever need. And he was very good at it. By seventeen he had his own independent command, and took part in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. It was expected of him, and he met the challenge.

The boys in the Tower were Richard’s nephews. The elder was another Edward, Prince of Wales of questionable legitimacy (there are considerable doubts that Henry VI was Edward of Lancaster’s father), and was coming up for thirteen when he and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury (aged ten) were ensconced in the royal apartments of the Tower in 1483, after their father’s unexpected death. Both boys would have been well into their training.

They were princes of the blood. They were educated, conditioned with a sense of their superiority and importance, and learning the hows and ways of defending themselves in battle. So, in my opinion, big-eyed, clingy, vulnerable, little golden angels they were not. Yet all we see are paintings that follow the same melted-marshmallow theme.

Do we ever see similar gushing illustrations of little eight-year-old Richard of Gloucester, in exile, clinging to his not-much-older brother George of Clarence after the deaths of their father and another elder brother, Edmund? No. Why? Because there are Tudor pawmarks all over the advent of the nauseating chocolate-box images. For the advent of everything concerning the boys of 1483, in fact. There is no evidence that they were killed at all, let alone by their wicked Uncle Richard. And they weren’t in a dungeon in the tower, they were in the royal palace apartments. Theories of their fate abound, of course, but that is not of concern here. And—whisper it loudly!—the Tudors themselves weren’t without good motive for despatching the boys.

Anyway, if I never see another sugary portrait of these yucky little angels, I will be well pleased.

(On another note entirely, there is another Murrey and Blue post about how portraits can influence us. See https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/can-a-picture-paint-a-thousand-words/)

Annette Carson: in sympathy with King Richard

To the delight of travelers across the globe, tired of lugging all those hard-copy books on planes, trains and automobiles, Annette Carson’s Richard III The Maligned King has just been released in ebook form and can now be purchased on Amazon.com.  Along with John Ashdown-Hill, Carson is part of a new generation of historians who have pushed forward new-found information that has helped to rehabilitate Richard the Third’s reputation in the 21st century with an energy matched only by their scholarship and dogged research.

Originally published in 2008, Richard III The Maligned King is not a biography but an examination of what happened from the moment his brother, Edward IV, died to his own untimely death.  It relies almost solely on contemporary accounts and moves in a direct timeline that makes enthralling reading.  Carson displays a ready wit and is not afraid to take on the hoary myths that cling to traditional historians like Spanish moss on a crumbling hacienda.

Although busy with new projects, Carson was able to spend a few moments with The Murrey and Blue to share her thoughts on Richard the Third and her background which led her to write about the maligned king.

Can you give us a little information on your background, Annette?

Like many people of my generation (I was born in 1940 and grew up in a single-parent family) I couldn’t afford a university education.  Music ran in my family and I was guided towards the Royal College of Music but I soon knew it wasn’t for me.  I married an actor and joined the staff of RADA as Front of House Manager, and then spent the next twenty years working the entertainment industry, including spells at Equity and Thames TV.

By 1984, having been involved for ten years in the sport of aerobatics and produced a fair amount of aviation writing and journalism, I was invited to co-author a book on aerobatic technique which was well received.  I was then commissioned to write a world history of aerobatics, which kicked off my professional writing career.  I enjoy technical writing and the research that goes with it, which in this case entailed learning Russian and took me to four continents.  That book sold 14,000 copies and my next book, a biography of the rock guitarist, Jeff Beck, is still in print and has sold over 15,000.

As you can tell, I follow where my muse takes me…so when other authorial ideas didn’t take off (I was JUST beaten to the draw on a proposed biography of Alan Rickman!) it occurred to me to put my ideas about Richard III into a book.

I’d been fascinated by Richard since 1955 when I was taken to see Olivier’s film of Richard III on a school trip.  Already a great lover of Shakespeare, I had never thought to doubt his mesmerizing portrayal of villainy.  So it hit me like a thunderbolt when my teacher said that many people considered him to have been a very good king whose reputation was deliberately blackened.  I’m something of a campaigner at heart – I took a particular injustice as far as the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights – so from my schooldays onwards I read as much as possible to try to uncover the truth.

Can you tell us something about your research methods?

Obviously, the ideas in my book had been germinating throughout decades of reading, so I had a lot in place by the time of the first draft in about 2002.  Fortunately, many of the standard sources were in print long before the internet became the resource it is today and my research entailed mining the documents and articles referenced by writers from Paul Murray Kendall onwards.  That’s my advice to anyone wanting to delve into where our ideas about history stem from:  become a reader of footnotes!

Paul Murray Kendall’s footnotes alone are worth the price of the book and often overlooked when traditionalists criticize him.  You did not write a biography of Richard.  Why?

I specifically didn’t want to write a biography because I was interested only in certain aspects of the years 1483-1485.  I had formulated several original ideas I wanted to explore, starting with what was known of the bones discovered in the 17th century and thought to be Richard’s nephews.  A major item of interest was to visualize exactly where they were found and what the staircase was like and the terrain around that area.  For this I got plans from Historic Royal Palaces and called on expert help from a civil engineer in order to commission an illustration – the only image I know that accurately depicts the discovery site based on contemporary descriptions, aided by illustrations, surveys and plans of the Tower.  I also wanted to highlight the importance of the jaw disease of the elder skull, and how significant this would have been if it had belonged to the heir of the crown.

Another thing I was keen to research was witchcraft in England in the 15th century, something which, because it already interested me, I knew the usual run of historians got completely wrong and still do.  There were many other original ideas – too many to mention – but several have now entered the general Ricardian discourse:  e.g. my taking apart all the myth-making in Vergil like Henry Tudor’s supposed oath to marry Elizabeth and the story that her mother meekly gave him her hand thinking her sons were dead.  Until then it had always been recited as genuine ‘history’.  And then, of course, my introduction of Richard’s bride-to-be Princess Joanna of Portugal, complete with colour portrait, whose existence had been known to readers of scholarly works but only as a shadowy figure.  I still maintain (with support from Arthur Kincaid) that my reading of Elizabeth of York’s letter in the Portuguese context is the only one that satisfactorily explains what the young Elizabeth was referring to.

Joanna must be one of the most under-reported stories in the history of Richard III.  Do you consider yourself a Ricardian?

By the time I finished in 2005 I had already written 160,000 words, so you can imagine how long a biography would have been!  My overall concern was (and is) always to set 15th-century events firmly in the relevant 15th century context.

I like to call myself a Ricardian because I am in sympathy with King Richard but I have to be careful of the word these days because it’s beginning to be used to signify blinkered adulation.  As recently as last year the President of the Richard III Society used the term ‘Ricardian translation’ to mean a pro-Richard whitewash.  I have no problem with anyone who admires Richard or with novelists who fictionalize him but it’s worrying when the boundaries get blurred and even Ricardians sometimes fail to make a distinction.

Occasionally I have to check your book and other non-fiction to see whether ‘a fact’ I’m using in an argument is indeed true or was inserted in one of the many novels written about the king.  It gets confusing.

Let’s be clear that I’m all in favour of speculation, because it can open up startling new trains of thought – and the Ricardian ground is so well-trodden that any new way of looking at something can be good for broadening horizons!  It’s sad, actually, that so many readers want a book about history to be a history lesson, and so many historians want to give them precisely that, right down to psychological profiling.  Whereas my job as a non-fiction writer is to explain how few and tenuous are those things that could be deemed factual, and to offer alternative constructions to conjure with and ponder upon.  I say what I think, and what others think but I don’t tell you they are the only conclusions.

What are you working on now?

I’m afraid there won’t be any new work on Richard III.  Unfortunately, I’ve found the atmosphere around Ricardian studies growing distinctly uncongenial and egocentric, so I’ve returned to aviation.  I am presently researching a biography of a courageous young World War I pilot which I hope to be ready for his commemoration in 2018.

My last Ricardian outing is assisting Arthur Kincaid with his updated and revised edition of Sir George Buc’s History of Richard III, which involves many interesting discussions and much repeated proof-reading.  Interestingly, the reason for Dr. Kincaid’s departure from the Ricardian community thirty years ago resembles mine.  It took considerable encouragement and persuasion for him to return to Buc, and I promise that when it’s published it will contain a treasure-trove of accurate and illuminating footnote references to delve into.

So you haven’t completely moved on from the maligned king!  I look forward to being able to buy both of your new books.  Thank you so much for sharing your time with the Murrey & Blue and I hope everyone purchases this new electronic edition .

annette 3

MISTRESS OF THE MAZE—Rosamund Clifford, Lover of King Henry II

Jane Shore is one of the most famous royal mistresses and certainly the prime one of the 15th century. Arguably, however, the most famous royal mistress in medieval English history  is the enigmatic Rosamund de Clifford, known as ‘Fair Rosamund’ or ‘Rose of the World.’

Like Jane, Rosamund seemed to have received a generally benign treatment from historians and later writers, despite one of her contemporaries, Gerald of Wales, making a cruel pun on her name and calling her ‘The Rose of Unchastity.’ In comparison Edward III’s young mistress Alice Perrers, was often depicted as greedy and grasping, and King John’s mistress, ‘queen’ Clementia, was mocked for giving herself regal airs and graces. Just as writers from Thomas More onwards lauded Jane Shore for her beauty and generosity and overlooked her dubious liaisons with William Hastings and Thomas Grey, Rosamund was generally seen in a wholly favourable manner, with her ‘rival,’ Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, taking the part of the villain, despite being the injured party, so to speak. Henry, a notorious womaniser just like his descendant Edward IV, seemed to get no blame for anything at all.

The Victorians and pre-Raphaelites who painted interpretations of Rosamund’s legend painted Rosamund as timid and meek, even a little simple-looking, while Eleanor was shown as being crafty and hard, with a sallow skin, pinched features and hooked nose—despite in reality being a notable beauty of the age herself. It appears Eleanor, being rather liberated for the era she lived in, was deemed by the Victorians as ‘unnatural’and unwomanly, having sought an annulment from her first marriage to Louis of France to marry the younger Henry and then by inciting her sons to rebel against their father. Rumours also abounded of consensual flings in her youth, including with her own uncle. Far better, it seemed, to be a naïve young girl at the command of the much older king than a determined ‘hussy’ like Eleanor who dared to do what SHE wanted!

Some attempts were made to change the more ‘unsavoury’ elements of Rosamund’s story to make it more palatable to the mores of 19th century readers. Suddenly she was not a young girl but of an age with the King—his first sweetheart whom he had married in secret, making her his rightful wife. This was nonsense; Rosamund’s parentage is known and accordingly the birthdates of her parents and siblings and, in all likelihood, Rosamund herself. In reality, she was probably only a teenager when she met Henry, and their affair seems to have started around 1166-7, when Henry’s youngest son John was born. Equally, the myth,also originating in this time, that she was the mother of Henry’s two most famous bastards, William Longspee and Geoffrey Plantagenet, Archbishop of York, has been proven to be false. Recently discovered documents show that William’s mother was Ida de Tosney, Duchess of Norfolk, and not only was Geoffrey too old to be Rosamund’s child, chroniclers wrote that his mother was a prostitute called Ykenai.

Rosamund, of course, is famous not just for the affair with King Henry but also for being kept in a maze near the now-vanished palace of Woodstock. The maze, which was meant to keep her safe from Eleanor, almost certainly did not exist, but there is ground disturbance at the site and a house may have once existed, perhaps with some kind of ornate garden, that had been built or adapted for Rosamund’s use. A well still flows on the spot, which has been known as Rosamund’s Well for around four hundred years at least, although its earliest known name was Everswell.

And what about the dramatic tale of Rosamund being murdered in person by Eleanor, given the choice of poison or a dagger? (Versions that are even more lurid have her roasted between two fires and attacked by toads!) Toads or no toads, murder by Eleanor is almost certainly untrue, since the Queen was imprisoned at the time Rosamund died, and no Queen would personally attend to such matter anyway, vengeful or not. There is a vague possibility one of her agents could have done the deed on her behalf, but at that time, the Queen had no finances to pay an assassin, being in straightened circumstances and reduced to sharing a bed with her maid in Old Sarum Castle.

However, what is known is that Henry officially announced his relationship with Rosamund to the court in 1174 and spoke of an annulment of his marriage with Eleanor shortly thereafter. A mere two years later, Rosamund had departed Woodstock and retired to Godstow nunnery, and then, abruptly, she was dead. Chroniclers say she died before the age of thirty. So something unfortunate did happen to Rosamund, though whether her death was natural or more sinister is impossible to say.

Henry did appear to genuinely love Rosamund, although his mistresses were legion—including, but not limited to, Annabel de Balliol, Duchess Ida, Alice de Porhoet (whose father was furious), Alis of France who was intended for his son Richard (only a rumour but possible given his reputation for seducing his wards), and the intriguingly named BelleBelle, for whom he brought rich robes at the same time as he brought gowns for the Queen. He ordered a lavish tomb made for Rosamund, which was raised before the high altar in Godstow Priory, and made monetary payments to the prioress.

The tomb became something of a shrine, decked with flowers and candles, until the arrival of Bishop Hugh of Lincoln in the years following Henry’s own death. Bishop Hugh was scandalised at the seeming veneration of the tomb of an ‘unchaste’ woman and ordered it removed to the nuns’ cemetery. It was duly dismantled and placed against the wall of the chapterhouse, where it was still visible for some years after the Dissolution. Around this time, a house was built incorporating the priory ruins, and when this was subequently destroyed in the Civil War, most of the remaining features of the priory vanished with it.

Rosamund has appeared in art and in song, and features in several novels about Henry II and his family, including by Sharon Penman, author of the famous Ricardian novel, The Sunne in Splendour. One solitary novel solely from Rosamund’s point of view was written in the 1970’s by Philippa Wiat, the Philippa Gregory of her day, but it was oddly flat and unexciting. However, in early 2017 MISTRESS OF THE MAZE was released, containing solid historical facts while incorporating the more fantastical elements of the legend, such as the Maze at Woodstock. Rosamund here is not the simpering icon beloved by overwrought Vctorian artists but a tragic flesh and blood woman caught up in the midst of the marital entanglements of Kings.

P1300373

Godstow Priory

CAN A PICTURE PAINT A THOUSAND WORDS?

It’s said a picture can paint a thousand words.  It certainly can but not always accurately.  It can distort the truth.  Art work based on the Ricardian period is certainly true of this.  Take for example the stunning painting by Edwin Austin Abbey, Richard Duke of Gloucester and the Lady Anne.

800px-Edwin_Austin_Abbey_richard_duke_of_gloucester_and_the_lady_anne_1896.jpgRichard Duke of Gloucester and Lady Anne, Edwin Austin Abbey, 1896.

Here we have an angst ridden Anne, while a definitely humpbacked Gloucester offers her a ring.  It just makes you want to shout at the canvas ‘run, run Anne and don’t look back..!’ although it should in fairness be remembered the painting is based on a scene from Shakespeare’s version of Richard lll rather than the actual facts.

There have been numerous paintings of Richard of Shrewsbury being removed from his mother, a distressed looking Elizabeth Wydeville, and although for all I know Elizabeth may well have been distressed on that day,  it aint looking good for the ‘wicked uncle’ is it?

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This version is by Philip Calderon.  Young Richard gazes tenderly at his mother   while being yanked away by his arm by a portly gentleman in red..poor little blighter.

A couple of paintings of the ‘princes’ do stand out for me.  The beautiful one by Millais (he used his daughter as a model for one of the princes) where he has the boys, standing in a darkened stairway of the Tower (where,  to add poignancy to the scene, some believe their remains were found buried) clinging to each other while a dark shadow lurks ominously at the top of the stairs…Yikes!

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The Princes in the Tower,  John Everett Millais 1878.

Another one. this time by Paul Delaroche, King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower,  depicts the two young boys, gazing into the middle distance, unaware, hopefully,  of their impending doom, while their spaniel’s attention, tail between his legs, is drawn to the door.  These artists certainly knew how to twang on the old heart strings!  Great stuff but  maybe not very helpful to some in forming positive perceptions of Richard’s character.

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King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower, Paul Delaroche 1831.

But finally, one that is actually closer to the truth, from a mural in the Royal Exchange by the artist Sigismund Goetz, and one   I can clearly remember, as a small child, from its inclusion in Cassell’s History of the English People.  I would gaze at it, not properly understanding what it actually represented, but nevertheless entranced.  It was not until years later that I could understand what was going on and who the people were in the painting.  A grave, noble,  and rather handsome humpless Duke of Gloucester being offered the Crown at Baynards Castle.  Beautiful ladies in butterfly headdresses look down at the scene from the top of the stairs….its Cicely and Anne!.  A rather frivolous looking young man, leaning nonchalantly against the stairs,  as an elderly man, almost hidden from sight, leans over and surreptitously whispers in his ear..ah!..tis Buckingham and Morton..meanwhile in the background Gloucester supporters , in harness, roar their approval.  Splendid stuff and about time too.

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Mural in the Royal Exchange,  Offer of the Kingship to Richard Duke of Gloucester at Baynards Castle June 26 1483 Sigismund Goetz

Paul Delaroche also painted The Execution of Lady Jane Grey..not one of our Ricardian characters… but a descendant of  one, Elizabeth Wydeville, via her son Thomas Grey, lst Marquess of Dorset.  Delaroche again gave his artistic license free reign..Jane was in fact executed in the open air, in the part of the Tower that is known as Tower Green where Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and also Margaret of Salisbury, Clarence’s daughter were executed.

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The execution of Lady Jane Grey, Paul Delaroche 1833

So at least one of these extremely gifted artists managed to get it right in terms of accuracy as to what actually happened.    What gifts for the art world but for the greater part, I do wonder if in the past,  these paintings proved for some people  to be rather a hindrance for the rehabilitation of Richard’s character.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENGLAND’S MINORITY KINGS 1216-1483

Introduction

This essay was prompted by a sentence in John Ashdown-Hill’s latest book ‘The Private Life of Edward IV’: “ According to English custom, as the senior living adult prince of the blood royal, the duke of Gloucester should have acted as Regent — or Lord Protector as the role was then known in England — for the young Edward V, eldest son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, who had been proclaimed king in London.” Not only is this casual generalization about the status of Gloucester’s protectorship at odds with Dr Ashdown-Hill’s otherwise careful attention to detail, it is misleading. It exposes a misconception about the constitutional position in May 1483, which is unfortunately shared by many historians and helps to perpetuate a pejorative myth about the vires of Gloucester’s actions during the late spring and summer of 1483.

 

It is a misunderstanding that is all the more trying since it is so needless. As long ago as 1953, Professor JS Roskell explained the origin of the office of Lord Protector[i]. More recently, Annette Carson (one of Dr Ashdown-Hill’s colleague on the Looking For Richard Project and co-author of their written account of the project) incorporated some of Roskell’s thinking along with contemporary fifteenth century evidence in her detailed study of Gloucester’s constitutional role as ‘Lord Protector’, which explains the position perfectly well.[ii] What these authors establish is that the office of Lord Protector, to which the king’s council appointed Gloucester on the 10 May 1483, was a limited one. The ‘Protector and Defender of the Realm and the Church in England and Chief Councilor to the King’ (to give its full title) was an office created by parliament in 1422 as part of the constitutional settlement that followed the death of Henry V. As the title implies, it is not synonymous with the position of Regent, which was a title and position that reflected authoritarian French practices, which Ralph Griffiths tells us were ‘repugnant to the English mind‘.[iii] However, as we shall see later, change was afoot due to the unique political circumstances of 1483.

 

In the four centuries that separated the Normans from the Tudors, only four English kings succeeded to the throne as children: Henry III, Richard II, Henry VI and, of course, Edward V. I will not dwell on Edward V’s minority for the reason I have already given; however, it is useful to consider the other three minorities since they provide the contextual background for what happened in 1483.

 

Henry III (1216-1272)

Henry III ascended the throne on the 18 October 1216 by right of ‘perpetual hereditary succession’; he was just of nine years old and his future looked decidedly bleak. Three-quarters of the English barons had rebelled against his father, king John, and ‘elected’ Prince Louis of France to replace him. In 1216, Louis came to England with an army of Frenchmen and English rebels to take the crown. By October, he controlled half the kingdom including London and the southern ports with the exception of Dover. In addition, John’s tyranny had damaged royal authority and the infrastructure of government to such an extent that anarchy was endemic. Henry did not have an organised executive or an exchequer with which he could re-establish governance and royal authority; he did not even possess a royal seal. But worse than that he lacked the forces with which to fight the pretender Louis. His situation was desperate but not yet hopeless.

 

In May 1213 king John had signed a charter yielding his kingdoms of England and Ireland to the Roman Church as a vassal.[iv] Although as far as John was concerned this was only a means of gaining papal support for a war against his own subjects, it had beneficial repercussions for Henry and for England since it placed them under papal protection, and unified the English church and crown in what was to become a holy war against Louis and the rebel barons. It also had the immediate practical effect of ensuring that no English bishop was prepared to crown Louis, which was .a considerable handicap for him since he was unable to transform his status as a royal claimant into the divine status of a crowned and anointed king.[v] Henry’s own coronation on the 28 October in the Abbey Church, Gloucester gave him a distinct advantage in establishing his superior claim to the throne. It was, however, a condition of the service that he paid homage to Pope Honorius II for his throne; it was a small price to pay to acquire the divinity that protected him from death or deposition by his human enemies, unless it was God’s will. He still had to avoid being conquered by Louis, since that might be regarded as a sign of God’s will. Following the coronation, loyalists minds turned to the formation of a minority council, the nature and form of which was dictated by the circumstances and not custom.

 

Although it was necessary to organise resistance against Louis’ invasion, the most pressing need was to restore the English barons’ faith in royal authority. Only thus would they be willing to pledge their loyalty to Henry instead of Louis. The Henricians knew the dead king’s wishes as they had his will, in which he entrusted his posterity to the Pope and appointed a council of thirteen men, ‘those whom he most relied upon’, “to render assistance to his sons for the recovery of their inheritance”.[vi] In particular, he commended the guardianship of Henry to William Marshall, earl of Pembroke; for he feared that his heir would ‘never hold the land save through him’.[vii] Although William Marshal was the most famous of Henry’s chosen councilors, he was not the first. Lord Guala Bicchieri Legate of the Apostolic See bore the prime responsibility for consolidating Henry’s succession and restoring royal authority. As Henry’s feudal overlord and head of the Roman Church, Pope Honorius III ‘recognized no bounds on the authority he could exercise in England’.[viii] He sanctioned Guala’s to do whatever was expedient to help young Henry and his kingdom ‘without appeal’. Loyalist councilors were urged to submit to the Legate ‘humbly and devotedly’. Consequently, this minority council is unique in our history.

 

Despite Guala’s authority, it was obvious that he was unsuited to fight the king’s war or to conduct the day-to-day affairs of state. So, those present at the coronation prevailed ‘by their ‘common counsel’ upon William Marshall to assume the mantle of Henry’s guardian as envisaged by the late king. William Marshall had remained faithful to king John from personal loyalty and not from conviction. It was well known that he quarreled with John about policy and he was not tainted with his tyranny. [ix] Marshall’s participation in the minority council was necessary because he was the man most able to unite the English barons against the French invader and despite his old age he was still a redoubtable warrior. He planned and led the successful war against Louis and carried out the day-to day administration of state business. He was particularly adept at using royal patronage to ‘buy’ the rebel barons’ support for Henry. Marshall’s appointment was not a nominal appointment, but neither was Guala a titular leader of the council. He was heavily involved in the council’s major decisions and issued orders to Marshal on purely secular matters, requiring him ‘to do as he was bound to do for the honour of king and kingdom.’[x] The third member of a triumvirate at the head of the council was Peter de Roche, bishop of Winchester. He was appointed as Henry’s tutor. It was a sensible arrangement since neither Guala nor Marshall would be able to take personal care of the king. Later, an argument developed about whether de Roche derived his authority from the council or from Marshall.

 

Henry III’s minority lasted for eleven years. Even after Guala’s resignation in 1218 (He was replaced by Pandulf as Legate.) and Marshall’s death in 1219 (He was succeeded by Hubert de Burgh.) it proved to be the most remarkable minority rule in English history. During it, the Plantagenets rather than the Capetian kings of France were confirmed as the ruling dynasty; England was recued from anarchy and Magna Carta was enshrined into English law.[xi] It also had significant constitutional ramifications. The ‘Great Council’ that met regularly to advise the king during his minority and later during his personal rule was the first conception a national Parliament, which became an institution that existed regardless of whether the king was young or old, weak or strong. [xii] I mention these events because they inform our understanding of the respective roles of William Marshall and Legate Guala, and their successors in the minority government.

 

Professor David Carpenter’s describes William Marshall as “the (sole) Regent” because he granted royal patronage, restored royal authority and dispensed justice.[xiii] It is a reasonable description of Marshall’s position; especially, as Henry’s own appellation for Marshall was ‘our ruler and the ruler of our kingdom‘, which is compatible with the notion of a regent. However, as we shall see, the relationship between Marshall and Guala was not straightforward. Its complexity is best illustrated in the revised version of Magna Carta that was issued in November 1216; wherein, the king declares: “But because we have not as yet any seal, we have caused the present Charter to be sealed with the seals of our venerable father the Lord Gualo (sic), Cardinal Priest by the title of Saint Martin, Legate of the Apostolic See; and of William Marshal Earl of Pembroke, the guardians (my emphasis) of us and of our kingdom, at Bristol the twelfth day of November, in the first year of our reign.” [xiv] The description of Guala and Marshall as ‘our guardians’ necessarily casts doubt on the suggestion that Marshall governed alone as regent. More significant though, is the fact that both of the guardians’ seals were used to authenticate the charter. All of which is inconsistent with the notion of Marshall as regent; a position, which by definition involves the personal rule by an individual exercising royal authority (my emphasis) where the monarch is a minor, absent or incapacitated.[xv]

 

Even more serious, is the possibility that Marshall did not actually exercise the authority of a regent. For example, it was Guala who proposed and sanctioned the re-issuing of Magna Carta as a peace offering to the English rebels.[xvi] Naturally, he acted in unison with the council, including Marshall, but it seems unlikely that the charter could have been issued without Guala’s agreement. It is a hypothesis that does not rely on the fact that the Pope had previously opposed Magna Carta, but on the premise that as the late king’s feudal overlord, he held wardship of his heir until he came of age. Thus, Guala was acting with papal authority as the leader of the minority council. Conversely, William Marshall’s authority was political and limited since it relied on his election by the great council. He acted only with and by the consent of the English polity.[xvii] Marshall was the public face of the council because he was best suited to that role; however, the implication that he was unable to initiate high-policy without deference to Guala is inescapable. The fact that Guala and Marshall worked harmoniously together in the common interest does not render this anomaly irrelevant since a regent is defined by his authority and not by his workload.

 

Richard II (1377-99)

When Richard II inherited his grandfather’s throne in 1377 his subjects hoped he would reverse England’s failing fortunes. The chancellor, bishop Houghton caught the public mood in his opening address to Richard’s first parliament. “Richard, he said, had been sent by God in the same way that God had sent his only son into the world for the redemption of his people.”[xviii] The expectation that he was England’s new messiah was a burden Richard found hard to bear.

 

Insofar as Henry III’s minority may have been a model, it was disregarded in 1377. Then as in 1216 the nature and form of Richard’s minority was determined by circumstances. Edward III’s senility and the illness of the Black Prince had left a power vacuum at court that was filled by Alice Ferrers the king’s unscrupulous mistress and her shifty associates. The Good Parliament (1376) had restored some order and probity by taking conciliar control of the government. However, John duke of Lancaster (John of Gaunt) in his capacity as Steward of the Realm restored the primacy of the royal authority by overturning the parliament’s conciliar approach, much to the chagrin of the three estates. Unfortunately, there was nobody of the stature of William Marshall to unite the Lancastrian faction with their opponents, or anyone of the sagacity of Guala to lead them with moderation and wisdom. The king’s paternal uncles who might ordinarily be expected to fulfill that function were considered to be either untrustworthy or incapable, or both. John of Gaunt was the senior royal adult and the most powerful man in England: he was also the most unpopular. Ambitious to a fault, ‘time honoured Lancaster’ had his own regal ambitions, if not in England and France then in the Iberian Peninsular. However, as a failed soldier and diplomat in the French wars, and a disastrous Steward of the Realm, Gaunt was simply unacceptable to the three estates. Richard’s other royal uncles, Edmund Earl of Cambridge and Thomas Earl of Buckingham were considered dilettantes in affairs of state, lacking the prestige or gravitas to lead a minority government. If the idea of a regent was ever mooted in council, it was quickly dropped

 

If the councilors who met shortly after Richard’s coronation had a plan, it seems to have been to prevent Lancaster or any other powerful individual from seizing the reigns of government. Their presumption that the pre-pubescent Richard was fully competent to rule personally was probably based on the notion that the royal estate was inseparable from the king’s person. It might have been naïve to presume so, but it was not mindless. The legal doctrine of capacities was known to parliament but its scope was limited. For example, a legal distinction could be made between the spiritual and temporal capacities of a prelate, or between the private and public capacities of the king’s Chancellor; however, the office of king and the person of the king were considered to be indivisible. Doubts about this were expressed during the troubled reign of Edward II but they were condemned by the barons and were not raised again during the fourteenth century. According to the English constitutional view, the royal estate (i.e. sovereignty) could not be alienated or delegated save in certain specific circumstances, which were not relevant in 1377. Therefore, even if the king was a minor or infirm his royal authority was held to be unimpaired. In practical terms this meant that anyone wanting to control policy had to control the king. That is why there was an increasing preponderance of the late Black Prince’s household servants on the continual councils at the expense of Lancastrians.[xix] It was by those means that the continual council excluded Gaunt from active government. Nonetheless, the presumption of the king’s competence was a subterfuge. He was little more than the public face of monarchy, the visual representation of order and justice. The continual council, though ostensibly the king’s advisors, was in reality the controlling force of government.

 

The composition of the council varied considerably over the three years of its existence. It was meant to be representative of the different strata of the landed classes: two prelates, two earls, two barons, two bannerettes and four knights. As I have already said, the actual membership reflected political affiliations that exposed the diminution of Lancastrian power. Neither Gaunt nor his brothers sat on the council; even if we allow for the possibility that parliament allocated them some general oversight of the government, the absence of the king’s uncles from the council suggests a remarkable change in the balance of power. Between 1377 and 1380, there were three different continual councils, the last two being slimmer and included an even greater preponderance of the Black Prince’s men.[xx] They achieved some success in restoring stability to the government and prudence to public finances, and they did not succumb to the corruption of previous administrations. Nonetheless, their domestic and foreign policies were generally regarded as failures at the time and since: “ A conciliar regime by its very nature was unlikely to excel in either clarity of vision and efficiency of policy making. It’s strength lay in the opportunity it afforded to achieve harmony through consensus.”[xxi] The tragedy of the time was that harmony was probably never achievable among such a dysfunctional polity. In the parliament of 1380, the Speaker, John Gisburgh accused the continual council of financial mismanagement and demanded their dismissal, adding: “…the king was now of great discretion and handsome stature, and bearing in mind his age, which is very near that of his noble grandfather, whom God absolve, at the time of his coronation (not so!); and at the beginning of his reign had no other councilors than the customary five principal officers of his kingdom.” What Gisburgh was advocating was an end to Richard’s minority and a return to normal government.[xxii] It marked the end of this type on conciliar minority but not the end of the need for continual councils to control Richard’s later excesses.

 

Henry VI (1422-1461 and 1470)

King Henry VI succeeded to the English throne following the death of his father on the 31 August 1422; he was barely nine months old. On his deathbed Henry V disposed of his two kingdoms in a codicil to his will. France he entrusted to the regency of his brother John Duke of Bedford. To his youngest brother Humphrey Duke of Gloucester he committed England, signifying that the duke should have ‘the principal safekeeping and defence’ of his beloved son’ (tutela et defensionem nostril carissimi filii principales).[xxiii] These words are important; especially ‘tutela’, since it implied that duke Humphrey was to have the powers of a regent. When parliament met in November to settle the constitutional arrangements for Henry VI’s minority, they had two alternatives. They could grant the late king’s wishes and allow Humphrey to govern the realm as he claimed or they could heed the lessons of the past to devise a tailored settlement. The settlements of 1216 and were of little or no practical value as a precedent, since their circumstances were irrelevant to the situation in the first quarter of the fifteenth century. Initially, the force of Henry’s will and codicil attracted the support of some lords towards Gloucester’s claim (according to the duke anyway). That changed, however, when they realized the implication of his construction of the codicil. The principal objector was Bedford whose position as the senior royal duke and heir presumptive would be prejudiced if Gloucester obtained the regency of England. The other English lords were also anxious; they were not unnaturally keen to preserve English sovereignty in the dual Anglo-French monarchy that subsisted.[xxiv] Therefore, they could not ignore Bedford’s interests by giving away powers that might belong to him, particularly as he was necessarily detained in France.[xxv]

 

The constitutional debate that began on the 5 December 1422 was parliament’s most important business. The lords were determining the governance and defence of the realm and the importance of the occasion cannot have been lost on them. Not only was Henry VI a babe in arms and therefore, unlikely to be crowned for many years but also there were two thrones to consider.[xxvi] At least one historian considers the untimely death of Henry V to have been the ‘most consequential event in the history of Lancastrian monarchy between 1399 and 1461’. Doubtless it was also a significant factor in ‘moulding’ English constitutional ideas for many years to come.[xxvii] It is all the more disappointing, therefore, that neither the debate nor the arguments are recorded in the Parliamentary Roll. It contains only the details of the outcome. Eventually the lords, with the assent of the commons, devised a compromise.[xxviii] John duke of Bedford was appointed ‘Protector and Defender of the Realm and of the English Church, and Chief Councilor of the king’. In Bedford’s absence, that title and its accompanying powers would fall to the duke of Gloucester. It was a pragmatic solution that recognized existing constitutional doctrine and also probably reflected parliament’s fear that either or both the royal uncles might try to impose a regency government on England. The creation of a protectorate scotched that idea. Bedford accepted the decision gracefully; Humphrey, through gritted teeth. He was clearly unhappy at not being given the authority he wanted.

 

Though we do not have an official record of the debate, we do have an unenrolled ex post facto note of Gloucester’s claim, which has been incorporated as an Appendix to the modern translation of the Parliamentary Roll. It is almost certainly a self-serving document as suggested by Anne Curry. Nevertheless, it gives us the gist of Gloucester’s protest and an inkling of his ambition. He claimed the principal tutelage and protection of the king by right of his brother’s codicil, “which codicil was read, declared and assented to by all the lords” who ‘beseeched’ him to take the principal tutelage and protection of the king and promised to help his cause. He alluded to a commons petition that he should to possess the governance of the realm; which petition, he argued, was not satisfied by the proposal that he should be merely ‘defender of the realm and chief councilor’. He also claimed tutelage of the kingdom by right of law: “Whereupon, my lord, wishing that neither his brother of Bedford nor himself should be harmed by his negligence or default, has had old records searched, and has found that, in the time of Henry the third, William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, who was not so close to the king as my lord is to our liege lord, was called ruler of the king and kingdom of England [rector regis et regni Angliae]. So in conclusion, he thinks it reasonable that either he should, in accordance with the desire of the commons, be called a governor or else, according to this record, ruler of the kingdom [rector regni] but not of the king [regis][xxix] as he does not wish to claim as much authority as William Marshall did. So he desires to take upon himself this charge by the assent of the council with the addition of the word defender according to the desire and appointment of the lords.[xxx] The note concludes with Gloucester’s assurances that (being ‘ruler’) he would do nothing of substance or flout the common law, save by the advice of council. He also acknowledged that nothing agreed could be to the prejudice of his brother Bedford’s rights.

 

Given Gloucester’s conviction that the governance of the realm belonged to him personally as of right and by virtue of his late brother’s will, it is hardly surprising that the next few years were marked by his resentment and consequently by disharmony within the conciliar regime. On the 3 March 1428 (during the 1427 parliament), while Bedford was away, Gloucester made another attempt to redefine authority in his favour[xxxi]. ‘Having had’, he said, ‘diverse’ opinions from several persons concerning his authority, he desired the lords to deliberate and carefully reconsider his power and authority for the avoidance of doubt’. He declared himself willing to leave the chamber whilst his request was debated. Indeed, so strong was his attitude that he refused to return to the chamber unless the lords reached a decision. The lords, without the commons (Presumably the lords were acting in a judicial capacity.) gave judgement through Henry Chichele archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop reminded Gloucester that in 1422 the lords had given mature consideration to his claim, during which they discussed the law and precedent And they had adjudged his claim to be illegitimate since it was not based on the law of England; which law, the late king had no power to alter or change in his lifetime or by his will, without the assent of parliament. However, to keep the peace they had determined that ”… you (Gloucester), in the absence of my Lord Bedford, your brother, should be chief of the king’s council, and have therefore devised for you a different name from the other councilors, not the name of ‘tutor’, lieutenant, governor or of regent, nor any name that might imply governance of the realm, but the name of protector and defender, which implies a personal duty of attention to the actual defence of the realm both against enemies overseas, if necessary, and against rebels within.[xxxii] If the lords had wished Gloucester to have more power, said the archbishop, they would have granted it to him. Furthermore they were amazed that he should now ask for more, especially as he and his brother had accepted this compromise when it was made; since when, of course, the king ‘had advanced in years and intelligence’. Finally, Gloucester was required to be satisfied with his current position and to remember that he had no power in parliament in the presence of the king, save as a duke and that his office was held at the king’s pleasure. It was an unequivocal rejection of the notion that Gloucester (or indeed Bedford for that matter) was regent or had the authority of a regent, during the king’s minority. The lords explicitly reserved to themselves the right to govern during the minority or incapacity of the king, whether in council or in parliament. Although the lords’ anger is palpable and Gloucester received a stern rebuke for his cheek such as no royal duke usually experienced, their decision was not made in pique but only after careful consideration. By rejecting the king’s codicil and by their words, parliament was making a distinction between the civil inheritance of an estate by a will and the constitutional disposal of the kingdom by royal prerogative.[xxxiii] It is a clear that they did not consider the crown to be normal heritable property or subject to the civil laws of inheritance.

 

Gloucester’s claim for tutelage also raised a grave constitutional issue since it included the power to exercise the delegated royal authority, implying a separation of the king’s estate between his person and his office. This was contrary to English law since it was generally held that whatever the disability of the king (‘nonage or infirmity’ to use Chrimes’ quaint phrase), his royal authority was unimpaired; furthermore, this authority resided in the king’s person alone and could not be exercised by any other individual. We see this principle enunciated in a council meeting that took place in 1427, whilst Bedford was in England; wherein it was pronounced that (and I am paraphrasing) ‘even though the king is now of tender age, the same authority rests in his person this day as shall rest in the future when he comes of age.’ Moreover, the council concluded that if, due to ‘the possibility of nature’, the king could not indeed rule in person then ‘neither God nor reason would that this land should stand without governance’; in such a case royal authority rested with the lords spiritual and temporal.[xxxiv] Nobody can doubt that in 1422 Henry’s royal estate was incomplete by virtue of his infancy, ‘since it lacks will or reason, which must be supplied by the council or parliament’. The impossibility of alienating or delegating royal authority is further illustrated by the care with which both parliament and the protector avoided any imputation that their settlement established a partition of the source of authority. Gloucester claimed to be rector regni (governor of the kingdom); he did not claim to be rector regis (governor [tutor?] of the king).

 

Conclusion

The historiographies of these three reigns chart the evolution of English minority governments from the ambiguity of William Marshall’s ‘regency’ in 1216 until parliament’s rejection of duke Humphrey’s claim for tutelage in 1428. During that period the guiding   principle was to preserve the integrity of royal authority through consensus rather than autocracy. Although there was undoubtedly an ideological element to this thinking, the real driving force was political pragmatism. It was believed necessary in each reign, though for different reasons, to protect the integrity of royal authority from the possibility of abuse by an unscrupulous or overly ambitious regent. Consequently, each settlement was driven by the realpolitik of the day rather than by precedent or custom. This is also true of Edward V’s minority.

 

Edward IV’s death was unexpected and unexplained; consequently, its dramatic consequences could not be foreseen by Richard duke of Gloucester or the Council. Edward V’s maternal family led by his mother Elizabeth Grey (née Woodville)[xxxv] mounted a coup d’état against the lawful government and the late king’s wishes. Their aims were to crown young Edward before the Privy Council could arrange a protectorship and to rule the kingdom through a compliant king. Their attempt to persuade the council to their cause in the absence of the king’s senior uncle and their disregard for Edward’s deathbed codicil, whilst not illegal, were not benevolent acts. They raised the spectre of civil war and a return to the social unrest and injustice that had blighted the 1440’s and 1450’s, and triggered the Wars of the Roses. Ultimately, the coup was unsuccessful due to Gloucester’s timely intervention and, more significantly, because the Woodvilles lacked support among the lords. In May 1483 the council’s appointed Richard duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector. This was consistent with the 1422 settlement and with Edward IV’s deathbed codicil, and it consolidated Gloucester’s position as leader of the minority government. However, as we shall see, the council did not exclude the possibility that his powers might be enlarged later, as a bulwark against Woodville ambition.

 

The sermon drafted by the Chancellor (bishop John Russell) for Edward V’s first parliament provides an insight into the councils thinking and their intention. They proposed to enlarge the Lord Protectors powers to include tutelage and oversight of the king and the kingdom.[xxxvi] It is neither necessary nor desirable for me to repeat or to summarize Annette Carson’s analysis of the chancellor’s draft sermon, or to comment on her conclusions about the form of post-coronation government envisaged by the council. My only interest is in emphasizing the radicalism of this proposal, which was completely outwith the conciliar principles of past minorities and challenged the traditional English view of kingship. Quite why the council thought it was necessary to abandon the safeguards afforded by the 1422 model is not certain. However, there are sufficient clues in the draft sermon for us to draw the reasonable inference that political pragmatism was their primary motivation. It was considered necessary for Gloucester had to have full ‘tutelage and oversight’ of the king’ because the Woodvilles were manifestly unfit to do so and/or they had abandoned their responsibility for the king’s person. [xxxvii]. Nobody doubted that they would continue their attempt to control the king, which if successful would be to the detriment of the peace and stability of the kingdom. This speaks well of the trust they espoused in Gloucester and the profundity of their mistrust of the king’s maternal relatives . Although I take note of the fact that Edward V’s coronation never took place and his first parliament never met, it is beyond my scope to examine the reasons for that

[i] JS Roskell – The Office and Dignity of Protector of England with special reference to its origins (English Historical Review Volume 68 April 1953) pp. 193-233

[ii] Annette Carson – Richard duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector and High Constable of England (Imprimus/Imprimatur 2015). See also http://www.annettecarson.co.uk/357052362 for a useful and freely available summary of Carson’s analysis.

[iii] Ralph Griffiths – The Reign of King Henry VI (Sutton Publishing 1998 edition) p.19

[iv] W L Warren – King John (Eyre Methuen 1978, 2nd edition) p. 208.

[v] Sir Maurice Powicke – The Thirteenth Century 1216-1307 (Oxford 1988 2nd edition) pp.1-8; the acts of anointing and crowning a king transformed the nature of monarchy. Not only was the office of king divine but now the person of the king was also divine. Humankind could not remove a crowned and anointed king, unless it was the will of God. Any resistance to him was treason and a sin against God’s law.

[vi] Warren p. 255; John’s executors were: the lord Guala, Legate of the Apostolic See, Peter lord bishop of Winchester, Richard lord bishop of Chichester, Silvester lord bishop of Worcester, Brother Amery of Saint Maurie, William Marshall earl of Pembroke, Ranulph earl of Chester, William earl Ferrers, William Brewer, Walter Lacy, John of Monmouth, Savary de Mauléon, and Fawkes de Breauté. John’s last will and testament is the earliest surviving example of a royal will. Considering its importance, it is a remarkably short document, which is more concerned with ensuring John’s acceptance into Heaven than the detailed disposition of his estate

[vii] D A Carpenter – The Minority of Henry III (Methuen 1990), p 52; William Marshall (1146-1219) was not of royal stock; he was the younger son of a minor Anglo-Norman noble and expected to earn his way in the world. As an errant knight, Marshall earned a fearsome reputation as a jouster and an equally impressive reputation of faithful service to five English kings in peace and in war. Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, eulogized him as ‘the best knight who ever lived’ and he was dubbed by his first (anonymous) biographer as ‘the greatest knight in the world.’ Marshall inherited his earldom through marriage and by 1216 he was a man of considerable wealth and power. Despite his age (he was now seventy), Marshall promised to be a stabilizing influence for the king and his government.

[viii] Carpenter, p. 13

[ix] Carpenter, p. 18

[x]  Carpenter, p. 52, note7

[xi] Carpenter, p.6

[xii] Sir Maurice Powicke – The Thirteenth Century (Oxford 1988 2nd edition) pp. 1-8

[xiii] Carpenter, pp.13-54

[xiv]file:///Volumes/RICHARD%20III/Murrey%20and%20Blue%20essays/11.%20Lord%20Protector/1216%20Magna%20Carta,%20the%20full%20text.webarchive

[xv] The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 5th edition (2005); ‘Regent: 1) that which rules, governs or has sovereignty; a ruling power or principle, 2) a person invested with royal authority by or on behalf of another; esp a person appointed to administer a kingdom or state during the minority, absence or incapacity of a monarch or hereditary ruler’. See also Chambers Dictionary 13th edition (2014); ‘Regent: a ruler or person invested with interim or vicarious authority on behalf of another.’

[xvi] Carpenter, p.23

[xvii] Carpenter, p. 55

[xviii] Nigel Saul – Richard II (Yale 1997) p.18

[xix] SB Chrimes – English Constitutional Ideas in the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge 1936) pp. 35-37; by the fifteenth century the courts had declared that the royal prerogative ‘ must be intact in the king’s person alone’ (p.35, citing VYB. SEIV, Micho.fo 118-23 [App No 48]).

[xx] Saul pp.31-55, provides an analysis of the membership and a narrative of their downfall.

[xxi] Saul p.45

[xxii] C. Given-Wilson (ed) – The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, Volume 6 (Geoffrey Martin and Chris Given-Wilson eds) (The Boydell Press 2005) p.149 [PROME].

[xxiii] PROME Vol 10 (Anne Curry ed) p.6; citing P Strong and F Strong ‘ The last will and codicils of Henry V, EHR, 96 (1981) 99 et al.

[xxiv] PROME Vol 10 p.7; Curry suggests that fears were first expressed about the dual monarchy following the Treaty of Troyes (1420). See also Bertram Wolffe – Henry VI (Yale 1981) pp. 28-35, & 44; and Griffiths pp.19-24.

[xxv] Griffiths p.21; Bedford’s friends were in the House and they knew of his ‘position’. Furthermore his letter to the Mayor and Corporation of London setting out his objections was before the lords. The respective appointments of Bedford and Gloucester under Henry’s will were determined largely by circumstances. Ordinarily, Bedford remained in England as Keeper of the Realm in the king’s absence abroad, whilst Gloucester generally accompanied the king. However, in 1422 Bedford went to France with reinforcements for the army and Humphrey returned to England as Keeper of the Realm. The weakness of Gloucester’ position became clear at a council meeting on the 5 November 1422 when the council determined that his tenure as Keeper of the Realm expired with Henry’s death and that he could only open parliament with their consent. It was a body blow to the ambitious Gloucester.

[xxvi] PROME Vol 10 pp. 3

[xxvii] Griffiths p.20

[xxviii] PROME Vol 10 pp. 3 and 23-24

[xxix] PROME Vol 10, p.6; Anne Curry suggests that the Latin word rector could be translated as Regent.

[xxx] PROME Vol 10, Appendix, item 1. ‘The issue of the title of the duke of Gloucester’, p.61; citing as a source PRO C 47/53/12 (in Middle English), printed in SB Chrimes, ‘The pretensions of the duke of Gloucester in 1422 EHR 45 (1930). 102-3

[xxxi] PROME Vol 10, pp. 347-348, items 24-27

[xxxii] PROME Vol 10, ibid

[xxxiii] PROME; ibid

[xxxiv] Chrimes pp. 36-37; citing Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council (Sir Harris Nicolas – ed) iii, pp. 231-36

[xxxv] I write on the basis that the ‘marriage’ of Edward IV and Elizabeth was bigamous.

[xxxvi] Chrimes pp. 167-190 with notes; see also Carson pp. 57-60 and 168-78

[xxxvii] This is a reference to Elizabeth Grey’s flight to the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey

Was the condemnation of George of Clarence a significant example of the abuse of attainder?….

The following is an extract from ‘His Grace the Steward and the Trial of Peers’, by L.W. Vernon Harcourt. 

“The proceedings in the parliament of 1477 against George, Duke of Clarence, afford us with a significant example of the abuse of attainder. Either attainder in this case was unnecessary and therefore improper, or it was resorted to for the purpose of bolstering up the judgment in an irregular trial. I have not discovered any evidence that Clarence was formally indicted, but he appears to have been arrested at Westminster, in the presence of the mayor and aldermen of the city of London, on a charge of treason made by the king himself in a verbose and not very dignified speech.1

“In the ensuing parliament Clarence was arraigned: the king, according to the continuator of the Croyland Chronicle, prosecuted in person: no one ventured to reply but the prisoner. (This last seems a somewhat unintelligent observation.) Certain persons were brought in by the crown, presumably as witnesses, but from their conduct at the trial many thought they were there to formulate accusations.2 Clarence denied the charges, but the bill of attainder was passed by the lords and commons and received the royal assent.3 

“The Duke of Buckingham was appointed steward of England to pass sentence,4 but execution was for some little time delayed: it was, to be sure, only seemly that the king should exhibit some reluctance about putting his own brother to death.

“The commons finally paid a visit to the upper house and requested by their speaker that the matter might be brought to a conclusion.5 Shortly after, Clarence was done to death. The manner of his dying was never made public; but the story of the wine-butt has at least the merit of being strictly contemporary gossip.6 

1 Chron. Croyland, ed. Bohn, p.479

2 Ibid.

3 Rot. Parl., vol. vi, pp. 193-5

4 Patent Roll, 17 Ed. IV, pt. 2, m. 19

5 Chron. Croyland, ed. Bohn, p.480

6 Mentioned by Fabyan, ed. 1811, p. 666

“Drowned in Malvesay.” Chronicles of London, ed. Kingsford, p. 188.

So, now the questions. Was the attainder of George of Clarence, the brother between Edward IV and Richard III, improper/irregular enough to be questionable in law? Was the court packed with false witnesses? Did Edward have so little real evidence against George that he had to bend the rules? The king had his way back then, of course, but in the present day, could a good lawyer present a convincing case for a mistrial? George might still be attainted and condemned in a second trial, but Edward would have to take more care. And, who knows, he might even have second thoughts about committing fratricide.

And finally, if the original trial was sufficiently improper/irregular, and therefore not lawful, would it mean that Clarence’s son, Edward, Earl of Warwick, was the rightful and legal heir of Edward IV, not Richard, Duke of Gloucester?

I do not believe for a moment that Richard thought any such thing. He saw himself as the rightful king and acted accordingly. In good faith. But L.W. Vernon Harcourt has made me think.

Postscript 26th April 2017: I am adding this because it suggests to me that L.W. Harcourt Vernon is correct to question the legality of George’s trial, because the Commons thought so too. In Judicature in Parlement by Henry Elsyng, Clerk of the Parliaments, I found the following. (Apologies for the Latin, which I can only vaguely follow, but the paragraph that follows it more or less explains.

“[fol. 75] Anno 18.E.4. George Duke of Clarence was arraigned in full Parlement. There is noe mencion therof in the roll but in a manuscript story of that tyme written by a Priour of Crowlande (who was a Pryvye Counsellor to .E.4.) yt is sayd, Tam tristis visa est disceptatio ea habita inter duos tantae humanitatis Germanos. Nam nemo arguit contra Ducem, nisi Rex. Nemo respondit Regi, nisi Dux. Introducti autem errant nonnulli, de quibus a multis valde dubitatur, anAccusatorum, an Testium Officiis sint functi; utra enim Ofrficia in eadem causa eisdem personis non congruent: Diluit enim objecta Dux ille per infitiationem; offerens si exauderi posset manuali defensione tueri causem suam. Quid multis immoror? Parliamentales reputantes auditas informciones sufficere, formarunt in eum Sententiam damnationis, quae ab ore Henrici Ducis Buckinghamiae, pro tempore noviter create Angliae Senescali, prolata est. Dilita est postea diu execution, quoadusque Proculotur Communitatis in Superiorem Camerum cum Sociis suis adveniens, novam eius conficiendae rei requisitionem fecerat, Et consequenter [fol. 75v] infra paucos dies factum est id, qualecunque erat genus supplicit Secrete infra Turrim Londoniarum. Utinam finis mali. Anno Domini 1478 regni vero Regis Ed.18mo./ perAnonymous in bib. Cottonae. [see 1 below]

“Here let us examine, for what illegall proceeding the Commons required this cause to be herde agayne. The author says, none argued against the Duke but the Kinge. This the commons helde to be against Lawe, That the Kinge Himselfe shoulde enforce either Article or Testimonye against a delinquent in a Capitall cause: for yt is inconvenient, that He, whoe is to have the fortfeiture of lyfe, Landes and goods should be accuser, wyttness or Judge. The Commons were present at this Tryall, and considering of the Inconvenience herof, they retourned & made this request, ut supram.

“[1] The ‘book’ was Ingulph’s Chronicle and its continuations (B.L., Ms. Cotton Otho B. XIII). The editor is grateful to Colin Tite for this identification. This manuscript was severely burned in the fire of 1731. We now have available a text based on another manuscript of the Chronicle, formerly owned by Sir John Marsham. This text was included by William Fulman in Volume I of Rerum Anglicarum Scrip;torum Veterum, printed in 1684. The modern edition (Henry T. Riley, ed., Ingulph’s Chronicle and Its Continuations, 1908) is based upon it.”

 

QUEEN ANNE NEVILL – HER BURIAL IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Anne_Neville_portrait.jpg

Queen Anne Neville from the Salisbury Roll.  Anne’s mantle equates her ancestorial arms with those of England and France.

After Anne Neville’s death on the 16th March 1485 , she was given a magnificent funeral in Westminster Abbey ‘with honours no less than befitted the burial of a queen’ (1).

Those  wishing to visit the Abbey to pay their respects at her grave will be unable to find it, although the general location is known.  The Westminster sacrist’s accounts record the payment of ₤42.12 for her burial but there are no accounts of the funeral or any monument.  The Great Chronicle of London, written in the 1530s records that Anne was buried south of the high alter ‘by the South dore that does ledyth Into Seynt Edwardys Chapell’.  A late 16th century list of Westminster burials also records her burial on the south side of the Sanctuary.  According to Stow,  Anne was buried  south of the Westminster Vestry while Crull claimed her grave stood in the south choir aisle (2).

The lack of a gravestone or monument might be explained by Richard’s own death five months later or may be due to the confined space between the high altar and the sedilia (priests seats) (3)

A leaden coffin was discovered in 1866 south of the high altar but was not disturbed (4). However it is  unclear whether this was Anne’s coffin or that of another queen Anne, Anne of Cleves.

in 1960 an enamelled shield of arms  with a brass plate was placed on the wall of the south ambulatory as near to the grave site as possible, by the Richard lll Society.    The brass plate is  inscribed with the words ANNE NEVILL 1456-1485 QUEEN OF ENGLAND YOUNGER DAUGHTER OF RICHARD EARL OF WARWICK CALLED THE KINGMAKER WIFE TO THE LAST PLANTAGENET KING RICHARD lll   ‘In person she was seemly, amiable and beauteous and according to the interpretation of her name Anne full gracious’ REQUIESCAT IN PACE.  

The quotation is taken from the Rous Roll.

Neville,-Q-Anne,-brass-72-Westminster-Abbey-copyright.jpg

Brass plate and enamelled shield of arms given by the Richard lll Society

 

Neville-Rous-Roll.jpg

Anne from the Rous Roll.

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Anne’s Coat of Arms..

Maybe it will be a comfort to those that travel to Westminster Abbey  only to find they cannot find Anne’s  grave to contemplate  that the inibility to trace it  may  have saved Anne’s mortal remains from  the desecration and  resulting loss that befell the remains of her sister, Isobel Duchess of Clarence and her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Wydeville .

1. Crowland Chronicle p.175

2. Royal Tombs of Medieval England.  Mark Duffy.p.264

3.  Royal Tombs of Medieval England. Mark Duffy p.265

4. Memorials of the Wars of the Roses.  W E Hampton p.117

 

 

 

 

 

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